Florida retiree saves his puppy from jaws of alligator, then puppy becomes water safety ‘deputy’

Most people would do anything to help their pets. But what if it meant facing down a dangerous animal, putting your own safety at risk?

But one man didn’t hesitate to jump in and save his dog’s life, prying him from the jaws of an unexpected predator.

Richard Wilbanks, a 74-year-old retiree from Florida, was walking his dog Gunner, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel last week, when an unexpected terror suddenly struck.

An alligator leaped out of a pond, grabbing Gunner in its jaws.


“We were just out walking by the pond, and it came out of the water like a missile,” Richard told CNN. “I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick.”

The little dog screamed, and was dragged into the water by the alligator. But Richard jumped in to save the day.

“Instincts just took over,” he told NBC 2. “Adrenaline kicked in and I just went right into the water after the gator and Gunner.”

The retiree pried open the gator’s mouth, successfully freeing his dog from its grasp.

Despite the terrifying ordeal, both man and dog made it out with only minor injuries, and are doing fine now.

“[Gunner] had one little puncture wound, and … my hands were just chewed up,” Richard told WINK.

“Fortunately, I was in a position that I was able to save Gunner’s life,” he said. “They’re like children to us, so there was no second thought whatsoever.”


The whole incident happened to be caught on camera, thanks to a campaign called “Sharing the Landscape,” a collaboration between the Florida Wildlife Federation and fSTOP, which captures video of local wildlife.

The goal of the project is to get local Floridians to understand and respect nearby wildlife, the local wild animals who share their land.

It’s a relationship that Richard, despite the ordeal, understands well. According to WINK, he declined to call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about the incident, knowing the gator was just trying to survive.

“It gives us a new appreciation,” said Louise Wilbanks, Richard’s wife. “We do need to be aware they are wild animals. They’re not here for our benefit. We’re very lucky to share this space with them.”


Instead, they say they’ll be more careful to keep their pets out of harm’s way, on a leash and away from the water. That’s no problem for Gunner, who has been

“I would like to emphasize for people that have pets to make sure that they keep them away from the edge of the water,” Richard said.


After surviving the alligator attack, Gunner has become quite the local celebrity — and even has a new job!

According to First Coast News, Gunner became a member of the Lee Sheriff’s Office Deputy Dogs, Pets on Patrol program.

“Detective” Gunner will have the important job of teaching kids about water safety, something this pup knows about firsthand.

“Gunner is going to educate all children about safety through out Lee County,” said Carmine Dellaquilla from the program. “School bus safety, safety as it relates to the water — alligators in the pond, toads, cane toads. Any types of danger that children face every day.”

“We’re looking so forward to the program and meeting people and he’s going to be a good representative,” Richard said.

We’re so glad this dog is safe and sound! Thank you to this man for jumping in to save his pet’s life!

And congrats to Gunner on his new job as a water safety spokes-dog! Share this incredible story!